With 150 musical acts, an audience averaging around 50,000, and food trucks galore, the 9th annual music discovery platform known as Make Music Pasadena welcomed the community to its eclectic range of artists. Created by the Old Pasadena Management District and the Playhouse District Association, Make Music Pasadena celebrates more than music, but the very reasons why music is made, heard, and powerful in it’s own “story,” which was expressed during an interview with Steve Mulheim, President and CEO of Old Pasadena Management. The Girl Underground Music Team witnessed the magic of the event, despite unfortunate weather circumstances, not even the rain could stop the day from being incredible.
We started the day with GROVES at the Old Pasadena Main Stage. The day had just started and people were still trickling in but the audience crowded around quickly. People near the back started grabbing partners and dancing to the music. The Alternative-Indie band caught our attention with their rendition of The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 track “Tonight, Tonight,” and further peaked our interests with songs such as, “Swim” and “Ender.”
Casually walking down Colorado in the light rain, a strong, and beautiful voice pulled us off the streets and into The 35er Bar. We had the pleasure of finding a hidden gem, The Cold Shoulders. This group had a fun dynamic and easily engaged the mid-day crowd with confidence. The lead singer’s amazing and powerful vocals were what pulled people in but the music is what made you stay. This Long Beach band fused blues, pop, and traces of reggae, which exploded during their set, while each member casually stood out and put them on our radar this year.
We went back outside to the Der Wolfskopf Courtyard, taking seats on wet wooden picnic tables, to watch Dream Vacation perform. The alternative-cinematic, 80s influenced band boasts a multi-layered set that puts you into a dream state of mind. The band’s incredible otherworldly sounds were enhanced even more with deep lyrics. We had the pleasure of talking to the band’s singer, Ray Silva, afterward (read full interview here).
Making a trek to the farthest reach of the festival, we ended up at the Playhouse Stage to see PAPA perform. Darren Weiss (lead singer-drummer) and Dany Presant (bassist)’s history growing up with live music really showed during this set. This was one of the most incredible live performances of the day. The music was high energy, Weiss announced his recent engagement and went into the audience, Weiss took a photo with the audience near the end of the set for social media, and the guys just had an amazing time on stage which was mirrored in the audience. As emotion pumped through the set Weiss got a bit cheesy, and when talking about merch he told the crowd, “I don’t wanna sell you shit, I just wanna be here with you.”
In between sets, the time for food hunting was upon us. With a vast amount of options on every corner, that ranged from pizza, hot dogs and tater tots, to juicy hamburgers from Rounds Burgers, the food temptation grew. Not wanting to miss a beat of the action, we made our way to the welcoming food trucks by the Playhouse Stage. Hesitant at first that food options would be limited for Vegan eaters, faith was restored by BellyBombz. Their tofu sliders possessed so many sensory elements, followed by love, zest, and sweetness, it seemed a shame to devour them.
Thoroughly refueled, the team split ways after PAPA’s performance and while one half kept the energy going with Smoke Season, the other half slowed things down at Vroman’s Jazz Stage. 3Antra, an experimental world music group, had a very reflective set. They did a few covers but their originals were what made the set. Their songs took you to nature and created an almost spiritual sound that reflected the songs topics. An audience favorite was “Sumina,” which 3antra introduced as a prayer for Mother Earth.
While things were slowed down on the other half of beautiful Downtown Pasadena, the journey to the Armory Center for the Arts proved a challenge against time, and the durability of a shoes’ grip in the rain. Luckily, we were able to catch the electro-soul duo, Smoke Season, and their intoxicating set. While not bringing their full array of lights and visual stimuli, Gabrielle Wortman and Jason Rosen, didn’t need any help capturing an audience’s attention. Performing new tracks from their recent Ourborous EP, such as “When The Smoke Clears,” and classics such as “Simmer Down,” and “Badlands,” the on-stage presence and chemical reaction of the two is a stirring act that needs to be witnessed live. Luckily for us, we also got to chat with the two after their set and talk about their “cinematic” performances (check back for interview).
Back at the Vroman’s Jazz Stage, Little Brazil also took center stage. The bossanova musicians seemed pretty new to the stage, but did a very good job. The lead singer’s (Natalia Spadini) coy smiles throughout were infectious. Their soothing Latin sounds were fun and relaxing all at once. The rhythmic sounds and carefully crafted set really honored the bossonova genre.
At the Playhouse Stage, Small Black created a space rock show. Using deep thrumming drums and some gorgeous guitar, the band had a transfixed audience. The guys were also lost in their performance onstage. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kolenik was dancing back and forth from one end of the stage to the other. His hands seemed to be singing along with him as he gestured to and from the audience. Juan Pieczanski (guitar) moved about just as much as Kolenik. The electro-inidie pop group created exciting music that was still making people sway in place.
Following them, Bear Hands took the stage. The cohesive and mature group really created a strong and engaging set. With awesome deep beats on keys and emotive vocals, the indie-electro group knows how to get a crowd going. Watching them perform was something else. “Bone Digger” live has something else to it when you can feel the attitude that comes with, “The lies, the lies, the bullshit and lies / Like oh I could’ve died yeah lucky to be alive.”
While Bear Hands were pumping up the crowd East of Colorado, back at the Memorial Park Main Stage, Thee Commons took us on a psychedelic, cumbia ride. The East-LA foursome engulfed the audience by emerging the crowd in their roots, modern influences, and a humbling performance, that didn’t distant themselves from any music lover passing through the streets. In addition of showcasing their genre-melting tracks, a sense of pride radiated from the band, notably front-man David Pacheco’s father, who danced earnestly on the wet grass, looking back at the crowd in joy.
And when it comes to being lucky to be alive, witnessing Atlas Genius’s performance at the Old Pasadena Main Stage felt like just that. The place was crowded both in front and behind the barricade. The guys were all so incredibly chill and truly trying to create a memorable experience for all attending. It was an exciting, fun, and engaging performance overall with an enthusiastic audience. The number of people completely lost in the moment, smiling to themselves and singing along was countless.
James Supercave didn’t shy away when they went up next. As they set up they had everyone sing Happy Birthday for Patrick Logohetti (keys). Then when the set started, Joaquin Pastor (lead singer/guitarist) did a death drop on stage and laid on the ground immobile as the others got things started. Blown away by the deadly bass, and the sudden fact that Pastor’s drop was intensifying the sounds, the energy building up in him matched the rolls of waves that busted through the J-Sub’s directly in front of us.
Pastor then rose from the dead, with an allure that is otherworldly, and started singing. The rest of the guys were smiling or laughing to themselves and the audience was eager and rapt, being hyped from the very start. Pastor continued the set immersed in the music. He was never still, physically in tune with the lyrics, and during any break in what he was doing his hands were moving along to air play the other parts. The way he captures an audience with an empty stare, is baffling, and becomes an obsessive need.
Their music was energetic with soul, and Pastor’s dance moves were as light as himself. The easy vibe James Supercave created turned into bliss during the last few songs. The guys all had lost grins on their faces as the audience sang along. In between songs, Pastor would comment on how “beautiful” the crowd was, truly showing appreciation at any given moment and thanked the crowd for “hanging.” Closing the set, Pastor carefully said, ” We’re James Supercave. We live in Los Angeles,” and carried on to entice the crowd to purchase their recent album Better Strange, “We’re going to set up merch here…there’s no one after us.”
The Girl Underground Music team then moved to the Shops Mainstage where the intimate venue hosted the band Jose Galves. The band really captured its audience when they got into songs with higher energy. During these moments the drummer really shone and the soft vocals from the lead singer contrasted these more rock-heavy sounds.
By 8:30 p.m. the hunt for food began again, and we ended in a Mexican Restaurant that will lead us to write a review on the wonderful entrées later. While one half of the team stayed and continued shoveling delicious food in their mouths, the other half quickly ran to catch Chelsea Lankes at the Der Wolfskopf Courtyard.
Now that the rain had stopped and night had settled, the open area transformed into an intimate outdoor venue. The entire place was full, packed at all sides but where the packed audience for Atlas Genius was adrenaline heavy the audience for Chelsea Lankes felt mellow as people swayed to the music. The blue, red, and green lights illuminating the stage added to the ethereal sound of the music. Lankes’ beautiful, soft, and controlled vocals were accompanied by two awesome instrumentalists on keys and drums.
With miles put on our shoes, and frizz to last for days, the overall experience of Make Music Pasadena was a joyous opportunity to revel in the love of music. From indie, to jazz, to funk, to mainstream alternative, Make Music Pasadena’s sense of community truly embodied the streets of Downtown Pasadena, and left no one behind. Hail to the universal language- music.
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